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Mother cat raising baby raccoon with her kitten a hit at west Japan zoo

Mother cat Shiro, center, her kitten Koshiro, right, and baby raccoon Hana sleep together. (Photo courtesy of Shibukawa Animal Park)

TAMANO, Okayama -- A baby raccoon being raised by a mother cat, playing together with her kitten as if they were actual siblings, has recently become a popular sight at the Shibukawa Animal Park in this western Japan city.

In June, a construction worker accidentally destroyed a raccoon nest when clearing a riverbed in the Kagawa Prefecture city of Mitoyo, also in western Japan. A female raccoon baby was taken into custody and entrusted to the park. At the time, a female cat named Shiro had just given birth to Koshiro, a male kitten.

Zoo director Sumio Miyamoto, 81, recalled thinking that Shiro would be able to raise the now 3-month-old raccoon named Hana. When a zookeeper brought Hana to Shiro, she carried the raccoon over to a place where she began giving milk. Since then, Shiro has taken care of Hana in the same way she looks after Koshiro, such as grooming them.

Although mother cat Shiro now spends less time with Koshiro and Hana, as they have weaned, the three still sleep together at night, according to the park. As the park plans to separate Hana from the cats around late September, when the animals will start recognizing they are a different species, it is recommending people who want to see the three together visit soon.

(Japanese original by Sayuri Toda, Okayama Bureau)

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